Monday, 25 October 2021

Baboons Burnt Their Bottoms - comics by kids in the North

From October 9th to the 18th I was on an excursion up North. It was the longest time Heather and I have been apart since the pandemic. In fact the longest for more time than we could remember, since it was only at the start of 2021 that we took over full time ownership of and responsibility for Tadpole. Tadpole's the cat and, until we formalised our adoption of him from Annie & Tony next door, we'd never actually fed him. Which meant we could both go away, and stay away, for as long as we liked, eg a week in Venice or a month in Edinburgh.

Since then we've managed three nights away, the last time being Southend, on the return from which we found Tadpole had been sick. His timers can keep releasing vaguely fresh wet found for just 48 hours, after which he relies on the dry food. And too much dry food equals cat vom, at least in our experience.

None of which should detract from these marvellous comics by kids, which is the sole purpose of this blog. I was away for 9 days, and these are some of the results. (The others being a 1980s Pop Star Colouring Book, which I was drawing and writing in my evenings and free days, and a very enjoyable weekend selling graphic novels and socialising at the Lakes Comic Festival).

After I'd performed with the Socks at the Frog & Bucket in Manchester (gonged off again after less than three minutes, least said soonest mended) on the Monday night, and stayed over near the motorway at Preston, on Tuesday I taught the good children of Nether Kellet in Lancashire. Pretty well all of them, the years 3, 4, 5, and 6 adding up to just 60 kids. One group in the morning, one in the afternoon, as per usual. 

It's pronounced Kworma, but spelled Quernmore. And was another school where I'll have to wait a few years until they've grown a whole new school's worth before they can have me back, the whole four eligible year groups fitting, once more, into two neatly sized classes. These were the fruits of Wednesday's classes.


The Thursday of my week in the North West, en route to the Lakes, was supposed to be spent at Sedbergh School. But, though I thought I'd confirmed the date, I clearly hadn't. And when I contacted the school the day before, it turned out I'd never made it into their diary so the gig was off. So, in their stead, here are two comics produced on Saturday Oct 7th which have a story of their own to tell. 

I was in the North East in this case, well in Hull, and had planned my tour with unexpected efficiency. Friday night (6th) saw the Socks performing at the Ropewalk in Barton On Humber, and the next day I would do a class at Chesterfield Museum, which is on a direct line home to Clevedon. I'd done a Zoom class earlier in the year with Chesterfield and was looking forward to doing one there in person. However, in the week running up, I learned that they couldn't get access to a room at the museum, so could I do the class on Zoom?

Normally that would be great, and easy. But I was in Barton on Humber doing a gig on Friday night, so to get home to do a Zoom gig from home would mean doing the 4 and a half hour drive on Friday night from 10pm, or at some ungodly hour of the morning or - it was obviously a non starter. So I aksed the lovely Liz at Barton On Humber Ropewalk if I could do the Zoom class from their venue. And, while I was at it, would they like a real life class there too?


They would, and they did. And so it was that, from 10 till 12, I taught 26 people on Zoom, paid for by Chesterfield Museum, from a conference room in Barton, then from 1.30 till 3.30 taught 16 people in person, the latter group getting a printed comic to take away with them, which sadly the Chesterfieldonians (who came, as it happens, from all round the country) didn't get. Everyone was happy, and I then did the drive home from Barton, getting home in time for Strictly. Hev came me for this mini trip up North, I then left her there for the following nine days.

The final leg of my 9 days in the North West, en route home from The Lakes, was at Southgate School in Huddersfield. A special needs school, my two schools had a deal of variety about them. You might see that these front covers lack the little doodles that I invite the kids to do while they're waiting to be drawn (these also don't happen on online-produced comics either). The pupils, who were aged 11 to 15 but had learning abilities mostly a lot younger, were better served by me coming to them. They were great to work with, and all the more rewarding when I feel I've really made a connection and helped them achieve something in their work. The afternoon group were smaller and mostly even more challenged, yet somehow they came up with the more grown up sounding title. You can never tell what kids will come up with.

The celebrities these 8 groups chose to appear in my demonstration strips were Ariana Grande, Simon Cowell (twice), Ed Sheeran, Billie Eilish, The Queen, Ronaldo, and Freddie Mercury.


Kev F Sutherland, as well as writing and drawing for The Beano, Marvel, Doctor Who, and graphic novels adapted from Shakespeare, runs Comic Art Masterclasses in schools, libraries and art centres - email for details, and follow him on Facebook and TwitterHe is the host of the podcast Comic Cuts The Panel Show

1980s Pop Star Colouring Book - the publishing empire rolls on


 I was supposed to be writing a crime novel. It's a month now since I met up with Tony Lee at the Coventry Comic Festival and he insisted there was great money to be made writing crime novels. Then I let myself get distracted by videos on Youtube, the first suggesting I should publish Blank Comic Books, then another suggesting I should publish Halloween Colouring Books. Then I made a 1970s Pop Star Colouring Book, and found it so much fun I made two more.

Well, this is the fourth (and for the time being final) one, the 1980s Pop Star Colouring Book. And somehow it's taken me way longer than any of the others. I made the 1990s colouring book in two days! One day to draw the pictures, one day to write the captions. I thought it was getting easier. Then I sounded out people online to ask which acts should be featured in the book - partly out of research, but mostly to drum up advance interest - and subsequently found I couldn't whittle the list down to less than 40. Even then loads of top acts didn't make the cut, like UB40 and Shakin Stevens. What can I say, it was a very poptastic decade.

I was drawing the final images, then writing all the captions, while I was on my week away doing schools in the North. I had a Socks gig in Manchester on Monday Oct 11, then was in Nether Kellet on the 12th, Quernmore on the 13th, had the school at Sedbergh cancelled on the 14th so was in cafes in Kendal most of the day, staying in Kendal right over the weekend of the Lakes Comic Festival, returning via a school in Huddersfield on my birthday, Mon Oct 18th. And after that whole week. I'd only just finished the book ready to upload when I got home. I uploaded it on Oct 19th and it went on sale later that day. 


It looks like my time on the 1980s book, both the advance publicity and the work on all those pages, has paid off because, after a week, my sales figures for all my recent books on Amazon looks like this:

Halloween Colouring Book (Sept 26) - 12 copies sold (I emailed every school whose kids work was in the book)
Super Blank Comic Book (pub Sep 27) - 3 copies sold
Action Blank Comic Book (Sep 28) - 4 copies sold
Halloween Blank Comic Book (Sep 28) - 1 copy sold
Cute Blank Comic Book (Sep 28) - 1 copy sold
Halloween Colouring Book Vol 2 (Sep 29) - 4 copies sold (despite emailing every school, as above)

1970s Pop Star Colouring Book (Oct 1) - 8 copies sold
2020s Pop Star Colouring Book (Oct 2) - 3 copies sold
1990s Pop Star Colouring Book (Oct 7) - 5 copies sold
1980s Pop Star Colouring Book (Oct 19) - 13 copies sold

So the 1980s is our biggest, and fastest seller, so far, though that could of course peter out quickly (as the Halloween Colouring Book's sales did, once all the teachers had bought one). Nothing seems to be being picked up by the Amazon KDP algorithms that these Youtube gurus suggest is the magic means by which you suddenly start selling 5 grand's worth of blank comic books in a month. This is, I have realised, a lot of self-promoting baloney, designed to make you watch more of these snake-oil salesfolks' videos and buy their merch. It's nothing to do with helping you, the gullible viewer, suddenly turn into a successful publishing entrepreneur. There's no such thing as a free lunch and, fun as my colouring books were to make, there's not a vast market out there sitting waiting to snap them up. So I shall content myself with having put these out there - and having earned about £120 in a month, which is more than I've made from Amazon to date, but it does average out at £12 per book, so hardly the great moneyspinner - and get on with some proper work.

Now where was that crime novel I started pretending I'd write a month ago...?


Kev F Sutherland, as well as writing and drawing for The Beano, Marvel, Doctor Who, and graphic novels adapted from Shakespeare, runs Comic Art Masterclasses in schools, libraries and art centres - email for details, and follow him on Facebook and TwitterHe is the host of the podcast Comic Cuts The Panel Show

Wednesday, 20 October 2021

Comic Cuts in the Top 10 Podcasts on Feedspot

 


Thanks to Steve (Noble) for alerting me to this. Comic Cuts The Panel Show registering at Number 4 in the chart on Feedspot's recommended comics podcasts

The podcast's taking a bit of a holiday. Having recorded 18 episodes, I've got too busy with classes and shows to be able to record more. Hopefully I'll get back to them in a quiet moment. As it is, they're getting a little over 100 listeners at the moment, which isn't really setting the world on fire. Here are the stats right now:


So the early eps are getting high scores - Doug & Iszi, the 1st ep, tops the list with 133 views. Then ep2 gets 114, ep 3 gets 103, ep 4 105, and most of the rest are under 100. Adam Roche and Hannah Berry's is the only other one to get a ton, it's on 107. The lowest at the mo are Bennet Arron and Susan Murray on just 50 listens. 

Comic Cuts The Panels Show is a fun listen, and it will return.


Kev F Sutherland, as well as writing and drawing for The Beano, Marvel, Doctor Who, and graphic novels adapted from Shakespeare, runs Comic Art Masterclasses in schools, libraries and art centres - email for details, and follow him on Facebook and TwitterHe is the host of the podcast Comic Cuts The Panel Show

"consistently engaging and metatheatrical" - Socks Birmingham review

 A lovely review of the Socks' Old Joint Stock show in Redbrick magazine


Culture Writer Frankie Rhodes reviews the comedy act The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre as part of Birmingham’s Comedy Festival, hailing it as a brilliant mix between ‘edgy musical comedy, pantomime, improvisation’ and ‘pure farce’

Written by Frankie Rhodes
MA Shakespeare Studies student - proponent of ethical fashion and lover of theatre.
Published at 15:31 on 6 October 2021
Last updated at 15:33 on 6 October 2021
Images by Frankie Rhodes

The Birmingham Comedy Festival sees venues across the city hosting comedy acts old and new, from the sell-out soloist Russel Brand to up-and-coming Brummie podcast, Tea with the Devil. Amongst this dazzling line-up, including many free events, I was drawn to the double-bill performance of the Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre at the atmospheric Old Joint Stock. Billed as the ‘Earth’s Funniest Footwear’, and having performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, I was ready to laugh my socks off (could not resist). The reviewer faces a difficult task with this sock duo – whether to describe the performance as edgy musical comedy, pantomime, improvisation, or pure farce. The answer has to be that it had elements of all three, and was all the better for it. From the very start, Kev F. Sutherland was able to create two distinct, completely convincing sock characters, who bantered and battled with each other throughout. Slick costume changes and intelligent comedy made this set more Sesame Street than trashy Punch & Judy, making a prominent addition to the puppet show repertoire.

“ Slick costume changes and intelligent comedy made this set more Sesame Street than trashy Punch & Judy

The first hour-long set, Fingers Crossed, showcased a range of pieces that the Socks have produced during isolation, including highlights of their Zoom performances. This made for some clever topical comedy, such as the song ‘We Can See Inside Your Zoom’, documenting the pitfalls of online comedy sets (where interrupting dogs and dodgy outfits are among the annoyances). Their opening song, ‘I’m A Sock’, was delightfully simple and introduced us to several of the show’s classic props, from a paper piano to a guitar that magically plays itself.

Interaction with the audience was quick-witted without being cutting, and the Socks made the most of the local audience: ‘this is Birmingham. When they laugh, they’re being ironic’. Moments of more risqué humour were well-timed and carefully selected, so as not to overwhelm the relatively tame viewers.

One of my favourite moments of this set was the Johnny Cash song, where the pair satirised the country singer with a guitar track that perpetually increased in key. Very on-brand, this hilariously falsetto tune revealed an advanced understanding of musical comedy.

Certain parts of the show fell a bit flat, such as the oddly abrupt Shakespeare sequence (which did, however, don the Socks in two adorable ruffs), and the slightly confusing tale of St Patrick. Having said that, it seemed that each member of the audience had their own side-splitting moment, which for me had to be the rendition of ‘Earth Song’. Holding up placards, the Socks poked fun at Michael Jackson’s indecipherable lyrics, in a hilarious you-had-to-be-there number.

“ Moments of more risqué humour were well-timed and carefully selected

After an impressive magic trick (which voiced the classic line ‘you’ll notice there’s nothing up my sleeve’), and a bashful light-sabre battle with plastic straws, the Socks closed their first set. Returning after 30 minutes, they brought us their award-winning show ‘Superheroes’, complete with countless costume changes, and even more songs.

‘Superheroes’ began by surveying the audience for our favourite action heroes, resulting in hysterical impressions from the Socks. Their first musical number, ‘What A Wonderful Film’, satirised the generic tropes of superheroes, revealing Sutherland’s inside knowledge as a comic-strip creator. Several catchy phrases (my favourite being, ‘The Guardians of the Deep-Fried Galaxy Bar’), brought us to the main part of the set, where we were treated with figures like Batman, the Joker, Thor and even a fist-only cameo from the Hulk.

Among this predominantly male cast, the female superheroes did have their own special moment, with Poison Ivy and Harlequin performing their own number about the Bechdel test. With hilarious lines that asked us, ‘is it woke? Or is the film just full of blokes?’, a topical issue about representation was handled well.

“ The Socks were consistently engaging and metatheatrical, combining fast reactions with an evident passion for puppetry

While not as fresh-feeling as the first set, this second show managed to entertain the audience for another full hour. The lowlights, such as the ‘Your Brother’s A Racist’ song that did not quite live up to the ironic humour of its predecessor from Avenue Q, were balanced out with uproarious tracks like Superman’s own number that saw him rapidly taking his glasses “disguise” on and off in a delightful farce.

The Socks were consistently engaging and metatheatrical, combining fast reactions with an evident passion for puppetry. As part of the Birmingham Comedy Festival, this offered something refreshingly different to politically incorrect stand-up, and I hope that the Socks (and Sutherland) will come back to Birmingham again soon.


Kev F Sutherland, as well as writing and drawing for The Beano, Marvel, Doctor Who, and graphic novels adapted from Shakespeare, runs Comic Art Masterclasses in schools, libraries and art centres - email for details, and follow him on Facebook and TwitterHe is the host of the podcast Comic Cuts The Panel Show

Thursday, 7 October 2021

The Sink Is A Volcano - comics by kids


Comics by kids at Southend High School for Boys, Bournville Book Festival, Selskar College Wexford online, and left over from Shrewsbury a month ago (my book of comics got left behind and I only got it back a few weeks later, never got round to colouring it as there's no way of getting it to the pupils).

The celebs they chose for my demo strip were The Queen, James Charles, Johnny Sins, Dwayne The Rock Johnson, Roald Dahl, and Freddie Mercury. 


Kev F Sutherland, as well as writing and drawing for The Beano, Marvel, Doctor Who, and graphic novels adapted from Shakespeare, runs Comic Art Masterclasses in schools, libraries and art centres - email for details, and follow him on Facebook and TwitterHe is the host of the podcast Comic Cuts The Panel Show


Wednesday, 6 October 2021

Colouring Books - a publishing empire continues

Having allowed myself to get distracted by the notion of publishing Halloween Colouring Books and Blank Comic Books, which have not so far turned into great money-spinners, I managed to spend a few days getting even less of my proper work done by reading about how much money some people were making by publishing Colouring Books. So off I went.


It took me a day to draw 30 colourable images of 1970s pop stars, tracing them from photos on the graphic tablet - and jolly good fun they are to draw I must say. It then took me another day to write the 30 short articles I decided to put on the back of each image. I mean, a blank page would have been satisfactory. But no, I had to write a whole paragraph. Here's a typical one:

I published my 1970s Pop Star Colouring Book on October 1st and, so far, it has sold 6 copies. It was fun to do, so I made another.


My 2020s Pop Star Colouring Book appeared on October 3rd and has, to date, not sold a single copy. Undaunted, I've produced a third, which is going through the Amazon KDP publishing process as I type this.


Now, hopefully, I'll be able to get back to concentrating on my proper work. Inbetween doing all this nonsense, I've been trying to write and draw a seven page strip for Spitfire comic called Enigma Variations, and have done a day of classes at Southend School For Boys, and an evening's caricaturing at a Friends themed 50th birthday party in Wickham, as well as playing a Socks double bill of Fingers Crossed and Superheroes at the Old Joint Stock in Birmingham. It's a busy old month to be wasting my time with side projects.


Kev F Sutherland, as well as writing and drawing for The Beano, Marvel, Doctor Who, and graphic novels adapted from Shakespeare, runs Comic Art Masterclasses in schools, libraries and art centres - email for details, and follow him on Facebook and TwitterHe is the host of the podcast Comic Cuts The Panel Show


Blank Comic Books - a publishing empire begins


I mentioned that, while I was at Meanwhile Comic Con in Coventry, Tony Lee had insisted I start writing crime novels. His experience being that, if you self publish a series on Amazon KDP, you can make a killing. So I started doing the artwork I had to get on with and, while doing so, listened to Youtube videos with tips on writing crime drama. Then I got distracted.

I got distracted by a Youtuber telling us all how much money could be made publishing two things: Halloween colouring books and blank comic books. So, figuring that those would be quicker to knock out than a 70,000 word novel would be, I did just that.


I took the comic covers I've drawn for kids at schools and turned them into two volumes of Halloween Colouring Books. I also made four Blank Comic Books of slightly different designs. Here's how they're faring after a week online.

Halloween Colouring Book £6.74 https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09H1SY2CG - 10 copies sold


Halloween Col Book 2 £6.50 https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09HG6C5PW - 0 copies sold


Halloween Colouring 1 & 2 Hardback https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B09HFXVLZW - 0 copies sold


Super Blank Comic Book £3.99 https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B09GZK77XS - 2 copies sold


Action Blank Comic Book £6.37 https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09H91XKQB - 3 copies sold


Halloween Blank Comic Book £6.37 https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09H8YFRVZ - 1 copy sold


Cute Blank Comic Book https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09H8XX23D - 0 copies sold


And then I listened to this Youtube video about making colouring books....



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